Up next in Best in Show, logically, is our picks for 35-45 degree Fahrenheit sunny runs/rollerskis. Now I know what you’re thinking and before any wise guy writes in, “Dude, it’s 90 degrees here now…..” check out the screen shot I took just before my run earlier this month (below). It may be warm where you are, but it’s still cold here in the morning, so there.
What’s proving to be interesting about these reviews is how one particular company tends to do very well in a given temperature range. Whether it is an increased emphasis in R&D for a new product line, the company’s roots in any particular endeavor (it stands to reason that Swix would be good ski gear and Patagonia good surf gear), it is very interesting how one brand often tends to be just a bit stronger in one particular stratum. Case in point, after the last review was published, one of my fellow coaches asked, “Hey Arc’teryx fan-boy, does your uncle own that company or something?” (You see the crap that I have to put up with every day?). To answer that question, no, no member of the FBD family of swift, powerful canines has any conflict of interest or financial ties to any of these companies whatsoever.
To this point, Patagonia did particularly well in this test. And without tipping my hand too much, my crazy travel schedule and the highly variable and unpredictable weather this spring has resulted in us testing many garments for different temperature ranges concurrently, so the Best in Show testing for >75 degree outfits is well underway. In that particular temperature range, yet another company is doing very well and will likely have more representation than its competitors, so let’s talk about this for a second.
When the coach drew up the plan for this column on the theoretical and imaginary chalkboard, the idea was to review offerings from all of the top brands for several different temperature ranges and pick the cream of the crop. The theory was that it would provide a diverse array of products from several different manufacturers. This is proving to not be the case. As noted above, from time to time you have seen and likely will see one company featured a bit more prominently. This is not because they are the only ones who sent in product, Yvon Chouinard pulled my stupid Great Dane from a burning building or I have use of a free, luxury fishing cabin in Canada (come on Arc’teryx, time to step it up). No, this is because, as noted above, these products are simply testing a bit better. That’s it. And, as any even mildly observant reader knows though, we are the first ones to call out any and all companies if we believe they are dropping the ball (see our base layer review).
I would also like to point out that my life would be a lot easier if the product testing produced a nice, even mix from a wide variety of manufacturers, but that’s not what’s happening, so that’s not what’s being reported. The cowardly move is to write about products that weren’t quite as good purely in the name of some phony baloney goal of trying to make the review look more balanced, but we set off on this wonderful journey together to tell you, the loyal reader, what was truly “Best in Show,” so that’s what we’re doing, even if the results could potentially look slanted.
I wanted to clear the air here, because it’s a bit ironic that in our efforts to do the right thing, it could look like we’re taking the easy way out. Like you, however, we’re nordic skiers, and if we wanted to take the easy way out, we would be in a local darts league, not skiing around a nordic center at 6 a.m. when it is -10 degrees. With that out of the way, let’s dive in.
1. JACKET: Patagonia Thermal Speedwork Jacket
If it’s sunny and 65, it’s pretty hard to goof it your clothing choices, but choose poorly when it’s 40 degrees and you’ll be sorry. Given this, the Patagonia Thermal Speedwork Jacket is simply perfect for this temperature range. It is warm, but not too warm. The hand of the fabric is what really did it for me though, as it is basically like wearing a thin, albeit tight-fitting sweat shirt. The weight, the mobility and the flexibility of this garment made it the top pick for tops.
It is also surprisingly windproof, a real must for a top layer in this temperature range. The only downside is it is most definitely not designed for rain, as this bad boy guzzles liquids like a Great Dane puppy after eating a five-pound bag of flour.
The test piece came in green, which is not particularly my favorite color, as being 6’3”, I can easily resemble a giant tree if I’m not careful with my color palate, but the underwater blue color option is on point.
If it looks like this:
You’re going to want this:
2. BASE LAYER: Patagonia Long-Sleeved Nine Trails Shirt
This one is a little tricky as this is the temperature range where you probably see the most variability in layering philosophies. The FBD is well-adapted to winter sports in that I do not get cold very easily, so I tend to be on the lean end of the layering spectrum. Smartwool and Brynje both offer excellent short-sleeve versions for whap-stick rolls/run closer to 45 degrees and if I’m in a nice sunny, dry climate like Colorado or Utah, I would go with one of these two, but if I’m heading out on one of those all-too-common dark, dreary humid East Coast mornings in which the cold, damp air seems to cut right to the bone, I found myself reaching for the Patagonia Long-Sleeved Nine Trails Shirt every time, in particular if the workout is an easy OD roll.
The long sleeves seem to have just a bit more flexibility in its temperature range and like the aforementioned jacket, this piece is so soft and comfortable that even after a long, sweaty tempo run, you’re still comfortable. If you’re doing intervals, I found it perfect to wear as the only layer and even once soaked from charging hills and avoiding agro motorists, it was still super comfortable under the jacket on the roll home. It’s also no so “techy” that you can’t wear it out to the bar. Another winner.
Note: The men’s long-sleeved version is brand new; women’s coming soon. Here’s the women’s short-sleeved version.
3. TIGHTS: Salomon Intensity 3/4 Tights
For essentially everyone but the Belgian classics rider, these temps are still tights territory, but since you’re not going to be wet and in particular if you’re working hard, what better way to be warm, but not hot, AND look all Euro-cool with a stylish set of 3/4 tights. Yes, to “commoners” they might look a little foolish, but hey, haters are gonna hate and you’re above all of that: you’ve got races to win, so check your dignity at the door and squeeze your hustle sticks into a pair of Salomon Intensity 3/4 Tights. They have just the right combination of weight, stretch, warmth and breathability. Tights are just tights until they’re wrong and these are most definitely right.
4. UNDIES: Smartwool
Still too cold to risk the nether regions with cotton or Lycra, so once again, Smartwool boxer briefs are the call.
5. SOCKS: Smartwool
Some interesting feedback from readers after the previous review that Smarties didn’t wear as well as other brands, so we’ve actually added a long-term test to the infamous “To Do” list, but right now we can only hit what’s pitched and these socks are still top of the heap for a run or roll.
NEXT UP: What’s on the Feet
Hold on to your hat, er, helmet, as a full-blown FasterSkier whap-stick review is also underway, so stay tuned for the most comprehensive and objective review since man invented the wheels.
Jon "Fast Big Dog" Schafer
Fast Big Dog is a paradoxically gregarious yet reclusive, self-absorbed mystic and world traveler. In addition to his calling to right the wrongs in the ski fashion and gear world, he also brings his style, wit and devilish charm to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club as the Nordic High Performance Director and Worldwide Director of Morale and Awesomeness. Savor these articles while you can, as his Great Dane puppy may burn down his house at any moment, possibly making this his last transmission.